Sunday 19 November 2017

An Ill-timed gap in the register

When Patrick (Pat) Mahon married Jane Cavanagh in the parish of Swords, Co. Dublin, on 12 September 1819, his parents’ names were not recorded in the register. This severed all hopes of a documented connection to the previous generation, leaving little clue as to the identity of my fourth great-grandparents.

Pat was born about 1784. At least, that was what his daughter-in-law, Mary Anne Mahon, estimated, when she registered his death in 1865. His birthplace is unknown. Yet, we can surmise, for now anyway, he was born close to where he lived and died.

Regrettably, no one named Patrick Mahon was found in the baptism registers of Swords parish, or any of the neighbouring parishes, around the time of his birth. Then again, his birth coincided with a large gap in the Swords parish registers, spanning the period June 1777 to June 1802. If Pat was a local, there were two potential couples living in Swords parish, at the relevant time, who may have been his parents.

The first couple were Patrick Mahon and Mary Cugan, who married in Swords parish, on 5 July 1772. On 15 February 1774, in the same parish, James Mahon and Elizabeth Owens were wed. Either couple may have been my direct ancestors. Or not! Both are worthy of further consideration.

Patrick and Mary had two daughters called Mary, one baptised in Swords parish in 1773, and a second in 1776. James and Elizabeth had a son John, baptised in Swords parish in 1776.  Sometime before 1785, they moved to Baldoyle, where their son Mathew was baptised, followed by a daughter Mary in 1789 and a son Michael in 1791. Probably, both couples had many other children, coinciding with gap in the register.

So where do we go from there?

The names chosen for a couple’s children frequently provide some clue as to the identity of the couple’s parents. Pat and Jane Mahon named their children, Elizabeth, James, John, maybe James again, Mary, Christopher, Michael and Patrick. Unfortunately, that covers all the bases, and any leaning towards James and Elizabeth could well be coincidental. We’ll need to look elsewhere to uncover a connection.

From the mid-1840s onward, Pat and Jane are documented as living in the townland of Yellow Walls, in Malahide, a small village in north Co. Dublin. It’s not known when the family first arrived there, but it’s likely, all the Mahons in Malahide were related, especially those living in Yellow Walls.

Malahide and surrounds, in Co. Dublin

The trouble is, the church registers do not directly link either of our two identified couples to Malahide. In the Roman Catholic division, Malahide formed part of Swords parish, and Swords was a large town. While there was a separate chapel in Malahide, the church records were kept at parish level and home addresses were omitted. It’s not reasonable to claim a close family connection to every Mahon living in Swords parish, at least not with the same conviction.  

But, by the mid-1840s, when an extensive property-tax survey was taken in the area, four Mahon families, including Pat’s, were found living in Yellow Walls, with another nearby in Donabate. There were none in Swords proper. This was surely significant.

Granted, our target couples were probably long dead by then. Even some of their children had likely passed on. But, it’s a promising start. And, if I can prove a relationship between Pat and his Mahon neighbours, and then connect any of them with either of our target couples, it may help overcome the disadvantage created by the lost church register.

Sources: Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI; Baronies of Coolock and Nethercross, 1844–1846, Valuation Office house and field books, National Archives of Ireland

Black Raven Genealogy

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